My Boyfriend Is Type-B (B-hyeong namja chingu)
Korea (2005) Dir. Choi Suk-won
The title of this Korean rom-com is one that most assuredly would appear even more confusing had it been renamed for the English speaking market, which would nullify the whole point of the story (not that this has stopped US distributors in the past). It refers to the Japanese belief of people being compatible via their blood groups.
Ha-mi (Han Ji-hye) is a university student bemoaning the lack of romance in her life while her friends are happy to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Having inadvertently sent a text message to a wrong number, Ha-mi miraculously bumps into the accidental recipient Young-bin (Lee Dong-Gun), a handsome but arrogant player. Ha-mi sees this as fate when Young-bin asks her out on a date.
Despite his arrogance and general attitude towards her, Ha-mi falls for Young-bin, but is warned off him by her cousin and flatmate Chae-young (Shin Yi), who runs a second marriage dating agency pairing clients up by their blood groups. According to Chae-young, men with Type B blood are untrustworthy and selfish, totally unsuitable for an introverted and virtuous Type A woman like Ha-mi.
From this plot outline, one would imagine the direction of the story to be a clash of wills with the various traits and foibles assigned to the blood groups to provide us with a catalogue of hilarious set pieces on the road to a blissful romance. Perhaps it is too early in this review to be hitting you dear readers with a disappointment but director Choi Seok-Won and his co-writers Shin Jung-Goo and Kang Cheol-Woo have other ideas.
The premise is one that is a hard sell for audiences in the west – unless they are already familiar with this Japanese superstition – although it really isn’t any different from using astrology as a means to determine romantic possibilities, so who are we to judge? But the idea of our blood groups influencing our personalities does suggest a greater stretch of imagination on our part.
In the characterisation of Young-bin there is little subtlety in showing his worst side as a typical Type B. In the film’s opening scene he keeps his girlfriend waiting in his parked car so he avoids a parking ticket, then after receiving a tongue lashing for his lateness, Young-bin jumps in his car and drives off, dumping the girl in the process. Yup, he’s a keeper alright.
Over the course of the film, Young-bin’s deplorable treatment of Ha-mi is barely any better, showing little sign of abatement right up to the final act, while making Ha-mi an infuriating protagonist to get behind, no matter how loved up she is. It really is a “one step forwards-two steps back” situation with Young-bin as he does show Ha-mi a few good times that help her lose her inhibitions only to behave like a complete tool straight after.
Possibly the only redeeming factor to Young-bin’s selfishness is he isn’t manipulating Ha-mi for sex which is refreshing. Instead his motives are mostly financial; he is trying to get a business of the ground but no investors are willing to bite. Meanwhile Young-bi lives in a sauna and maxes out his credit cards to keep up appearances, and on occasion tricking Ha-mi into paying for her own presents.
There really isn’t much comedy to be found in this scenario although the tone is light and fluffy with a typically bright aesthetic associated with the genre. On this occasion it is the supporting cast who provide the real giggles, with cynical Chae-young leading the charge. Her undisguised distrust of Young-bin allows for a few amusing moments, such as her attempt to keep Ha-mi at home and her own problems with Type B men.
Ha-mi’s milquetoast persona and ready compliance to whatever whim Young-bin wishes to indulge in, along with her continual belief that Young-bin is the one regardless of his poor treatment of her, does little to endear her to audience. Being sweet and amiable is one thing, being a willing doormat is another; even when she gets wise to Young-bin’s tricks, she still goes back for more.
Most irritating of all, there is not enough time in the final act for Young-bin to hit rock bottom, realise the error of his ways and fight for redemption. Had this been the case then the idea of this being a tale to relate the age old “selfish men are jerks, but women can change them” would have gone some way to making this a more palatable experience.
As opined earlier, the chance to explore and elaborate on the blood group theory is a missed opportunity to bolster the comic quotient of the script, along with fleshing the two leads out beyond their established roles as per their blood types. As if to labour the point, all Type B males appearing in the film are utter, vain blowhards so Young-bin is not a token archetype for the sake of the narrative.
Luckily the committed performances of the cast elevate this film beyond its pedestrian leanings. Lee Dong-Gun seems to enjoy being the perfidious Young-bi, but is outclassed by Han Ji-hye’s chaste and adorably perky Ha-mi, who compensates the weakness of her character in the emotional scenes. Unfortunately for both, Shin Yi borderline steals the show as Chae-young, the only true comic foil in the entire line-up.
My Boyfriend Is Type-B is a prime example of playing things too straight, resulting in mediocrity overriding the potential of the central premise. By no means a bad film, satiating the conventions of the genre and likely to delight those looking for an undemanding way to pass the time, but its lack of aspiration is as frustrating as the passivity and acquiescence of Ha-mi.